This was the first photo we could find of my grandmother (yiayia) Tessie after she died on 24 April 2009. I’m not certain how old she was at that point, but she was 92 when she died – a ripe old age.
Her full first name was Anastasia, but she was known as Tessie. She was born in Brantford, Ontario in 1916 but was sent to school without speaking any English. This must have been hard for her, especially in small-town Ontario.
This is the first photo that we have of her whole family:
… and this might give you a sense of how she grew up. She actually wanted more than anything to become a teacher, but in her time and day she was not allowed to go to teachers’ college by her parents. So, she got married instead… and raised three children who all became teachers.
Also, as a married woman, she became a leader in the Greek Community in Kingston, Ontario – not only did she help the women in her Greek-Canadian community, but many of the Greek-Canadians currently in Kingston were allowed to stay in her house, rent free, for a few months until they got on their feet. She and her husband helped them find jobs and places in the community.
I only really learned (or rather, only really appreciated) the full extent of Tessie’s contributions to the Greek community in my hometown after she died. To me growing up, she was a beloved grandmother but also sometimes a pain in the @$$… I joked about her perusing all the flyers and driving all over Kingston for deals on food. I brought high school friends over to her house to go through her cupboards and joke about the past due dates on food… (yiayia was, to be fair, a bit of a hoarder. Probably for good past reason, but I didn’t get it then).
As a teenager (and before call waiting and all that jazz) I was also not all that happy that she would phone and keep my mother on the line for an hour at a time – cutting off my quality time with my friends on the phone!! Her big thing when she used to call (and this was well before the days of mobile phones) was whenever someone (my mother or I) picked up the phone she would say “you’re home, eh?” LIKE… where else would we be?!?!?! Big laughs and jokes about this phraseology in the house at the time.
As I grew older, I started to appreciate yiayia’s qualities – especially the fact that she read the papers (Toronto and Kingston) every day and could quote you line and verse where she had read something. This in her mid to late 80s, when she was still going to the pool to swim! And she was still doing the daily crosswords in the paper (something which I can’t accomplish today!)
Unfortunately for us and for yiayia, she developed Alzheimers and had to leave her house for a care home – Trillium Lodge in Kingston, where she was cared for very, very well. She lived a few comfortable years there, and now she is no longer with us.
I don’t have any more recent photos of yiayia than the above in computer format, but if you’re interested in seeing my favourite photo, just scroll to the end of the video below. It’s at 8 minutes 5 seconds in the video. (The video, by the way, was made by the Robert Reid Funeral Home in Kingston ON. http://www.reidfuneralhome.com/ They selected the music. I put into order the majority of the photos and also provided the captions). Perhaps if you have some time, you can look at the video as well. It is, I think, a chronicle of a live well lived).
Na pas to kalo, yiayia! (all the best to you, grandmother!).